Viva Forever – the annual review!

It’s been a whole year since I passed my viva, which feels like a good amount of time to pause and take stock. Reflecting on the 365 days since that scary scary day, that simultaneously feels like it was forever ago and just yesterday, there feels like there’s been some real milestones, so I guess this post is kind of like my personal annual review.

Expertly made biscuits by my PhD pal Jessica Moran.

My first (PhD) journal article

My first PhD journal article came out two weeks ago (academic pubishing can be slow) and I was extremely excited to see it in print! I have four (maybe five) journal articles planned out from my PhD (one published and two in draft form), but this first one felt like a real achievement to get out into the world. It focusses on how cisnormativity and heteronormativity provide the cultural climate which makes queerphobia stigma, discrimination and harassment possible. In response to this, we argue that LGBT+ young people can conceptualise suicide as a response to queerphobia, drawing on feelings of queer entrapment, rejection and isolation. You can read the full version here or the unedited, green open access version (shared using a CC-BY-NC-ND licence) here.

Staying Alive: risk, resistance and responses to LGBT+ youth suicide in Scotland

This event (funded as part of the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science) was maybe the (work) highlight of my year. It brought together 56 practitioners, community members and members of the public, and policy makers to discuss how the findings of the research could be implemented. The numbers were limited to allow for small group discussion facilitated by a team of volunteers, but I am acutely aware that we had almost as many people on the waiting list as we had attending. To allow the events reach to stretch further than those that we could have together in the zoom room, both the findings of the research and the discussions we had in the group were then written up in a report which you can find here and I hope to hold similar events again in the future. This was also a great confidence boost for me because I got to meet people who were interested in the topic I care most passionately about (LGBT+ youth suicide prevention), but also because I got to see the uses my research could have, and because it was the first time I have been awarded funding!

Our first Suicide in/as Politics publication

My first job out of the PhD (starting just a couple of days after I handed in my thesis for examination!) is on the Leverhulme funded Suicide in/as Politics project. Over the 15 months I’ve worked on the project I, along with my colleagues Alex Oaten, Amy Chandler and Ana Jordan, have analysed eight suicide prevention policies in use 2009-2019 as well as every (yes every!) mention of suicide in the four UK parliaments in the same time period. In January our first article, critically analysing the UK’s suicide prevention policies was published in the Journal of Public Mental Health. You can read the full version here or the unedited, green open access version (shared using a CC-BY-NC licence) here.

Collectivity, Connectivity and Community

I was really worried that after my PhD there would be little opportunity for me to think about self and collective research care and community. But I’ve been very lucky to have wonderfully supportive colleagues and currently I am part of the Net ECR Collective Care network (which I was a founding member of) and the Emotionally Demanding Research Network Scotland. In addition to that, my colleague Harvey Humphrey and I were awarded funding by the British Sociological Association to run an event supporting and celebrating queer early career researchers using creative practices (for more info see here). The event was brilliant and from it we’ve established a small community which we are currently calling Queer Joy! In addition to that I’ve also been really lucky to be selected for some wonderful development opportunities, including mentorship through BSA and MedSoc, the GROW researcher development programme run by Emerging Minds, and a wonderful writing retreat run by the Sociological Review.

Getting out and about and talking to folks

I’ve written before about how the pandemic meant that I basically didn’t get to talk to anyone about my research findings in the final year of my PhD, but I’ve made up for it since! I’ve been lucky to be invited to talk about my research by the TRIUMPH network: firstly in a short video, then as part of a webinar on preventing youth suicide, and as part of the Suicide Cultures seminar series. I was also invited by Ireland’s National Office for Suicide Prevention to run a professionally accredited webinar session on the role of stigma, discrimination & harassment as contributors to suicidal distress amongst LGBT+ youth for psychiatry, counselling, and psychotherapy professionals. For academic audiences, I presented my research at BSA MedSoc and at the international network of Early Career Researchers working in suicide and self-harm -netECR’s conference.

Round Up

If I was doing my own annual review, I’d say it has been a good year. There’s loads of stuff that I haven’t written down that I’ve started doing, like reviewing for journals more regularly and beginning to (second) supervise a PhD project which have helped this past year be really exciting. One of the most important things has been the transition to not having to work all the time. I feel so lucky and privileged to have a three year contract which I am only 15 months into. Having this small portion of security has meant that although of course I am worrying about what will come next at the end of this contract and how I can do enough to mean that I will get another contract that I love just as much, I am able to have evenings and weekend and sleep without the stress of worrying about imminently impending unemployment and how I will pay my bills. It has made an enormous difference to my health and wellbeing and I am very excited about what the future holds!

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